Celebrating Co-op Community ServiceBy Steven Johnson | ECT Staff Writer Published: March 10th, 2011
ORLANDO, Fla.—If there were any questions about the lengths to which co-ops go on behalf of their communities, they were answered at the NRECA annual meeting.
Three co-ops received 2011 National Community Service Awards for an energy-efficiency initiative in Alabama, an effort to rebuild distressed Florida communities, and a program that brings the cooperative experience to Wisconsin youth.
“They are showing a bond between cooperatives and the communities they serve,” Randy Dwyer, NRECA director of grassroots advocacy, told about 1,500 people at the annual Celebration Lunch at the Peabody Orlando.
The Energy Efficiency award went to Wiregrass Electric Co-op, Hartford, Ala. The co-op committed $100,000 to launch a program to weatherize residences of low-income homeowners, in partnership with a local Habitat for Humanity.
“This is one of those programs that makes you feel really good about working at a co-op,” Michael McWaters, Wiregrass Electric CEO, said at the luncheon.
Withlacoochee River Electric Co-op, Dade City, Fla., won the Community Investment award for its role in trying to revive Lacoochee, Fla., and neighboring Trilby. The co-op organized a bus tour of the area in July for federal, state and local officials, and representatives of charitable groups. Co-op officials said resources are starting to flow to the communities.
“It just goes to show what we can do as cooperatives together. We can touch the lives of many people we serve,” said David Lambert, manager of member relations.
Jackson Electric Co-op, Black River Falls, Wis., received the 2011 Youth Programs award. In 2009, the co-op donated eight acres of unused land behind its headquarters to a local FFA chapter. Three other cooperatives are involved in the endeavor, which has inspired local students to form their own cooperative with bylaws and patronage dividends.
“We must all keep in mind that our youth is our future, and it is important to teach them the cooperative principles at a young age, so they can grow up and become members of cooperatives, and hold positions of leadership,” said Carol Blaken, communications specialist at Jackson Electric.